Norma Heyman

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Mrs. Henderson Presents Review


Grim
The best reason for making Mrs. Henderson Presents seems to be we haven't had a cheeky film about curious Brits getting naked since, oh, Calendar Girls. Given the lackadaisical construction of this pallid backstage fairy tale it's hard to imagine any other driving force behind its production. Writer Martin Sherman is an old hand at transforming the theatrical into the cinematic, with works such as Bent and Callas Forever under his belt, so it's no surprise he'd be drawn to the interesting (definitely not incredible, but interesting nonetheless) true story of Laura Henderson and the Windmill Theatre.

The film opens on Mrs. Henderson, played by the indomitable Judi Dench as an imperviously imperious lady of vast wealth and even vaster arrogance, dealing with all the troublesome nonsense of burying her husband. Having spent most of her life in India, she seems at odds in prewar London, with the money to do practically whatever she wants but no patience for the typical pastimes of the upper-class widow (needlepoint, charities, and so on). On a lark, she decides to buy the decrepit Windmill Theater and is well into refurbishing it before realizing she doesn't really know what kind of shows she'll put on. That's where Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins) comes in. A crusty old showbiz type with nice suits, big cigars, and even bigger ideas, Van Damm realizes what he's up against when Henderson announces to him, "Of course you're Jewish - look at you!"

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Dangerous Liaisons Review


Extraordinary
Until The Quiet American, this was only decent thing Christopher Hampton had ever written, and why shouldn't he, he had the source material to help him. The film famously follows backstabbing and intrigue in France, 200 or so years ago, as kissing cousins place a bet over whether Valmont (John Malkovich) can land prissy Marie (Michelle Pfeiffer), ruining countless lives along the way. It would be almost perfect if it wasn't for southern belle Swoosie Kurtz mucking up the works. Probably the best adaptation of the celebrated novel you can find.

Sister My Sister Review


Grim
Now it's getting ridiculous. This is the third two-women-kill-an-old-lady movie in the last year. While the first two, Heavenly Creatures and Fun, were both spectacular pictures, Sister My Sister is an unfortunate embarrassment.

The aforementioned two women are Christine (Joely Richardson) and Lea (Jodhi May), close-knit, questionably sane sisters employed as maids for the domineering Madame Danzard (Julie Walters). The girls slave for low wages, and what they do earn is inevitably taken by their greedy mother. The theme of "All they have is each other" is truly beaten over your head in no uncertain terms. When things start to get bad, the maids turn to the film's other theme for solace: "There's no problem a little incest can't cure." When things get their worst, only wholesale slaughter will do.

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Gangster No. 1 Review


Weak
Sometimes, a film just goes beyond its means. Gangster No. 1 is just such a film. With a lukewarm gangster drama script, over-the-top performances from such actors as David Thewlis, Malcolm McDowell, and Paul Bettany, and Paul McGuigan's (The Acid House) exaggerated directing style, it just falls apart like Jell-O left in the sun.

Gangster No. 1 feels like pieces a bunch of other, better movies slapped together -- GoodFellas' musical selections, the violence from American Psycho and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, a dash of any Quentin Tarantino or Guy Ritchie style of editing, Malcolm McDowell in a performance recalling A Clockwork Orange. Some of it's fun, but it just isn't original or creative.

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Norma Heyman

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